Are You Marry Your Cousin in Ohio: What the Law Says and Why It Matters


Ohio is one of the places that doesn’t allow first cousins to get married, no matter how old they are, how fertile they are, or if they’ve had genetic tests. It’s also against the law for adopted cousins and double first cousins. It is illegal in Ohio to try to marry or have a sexual connection with a first cousin. If caught, the person could face criminal incest charges and up to five years in prison.

People who are married to first cousins from other states can’t get married in Ohio either. This piece will talk about why Ohio has this law and how it differs from laws in other states and countries.

Ohio’s Law on Marrying a Cousin

Part 3101.01 of the Ohio Revised Code talks about how cousins can get married. It says that someone who is only second cousins to someone else can’t marry that person. This includes first cousins by birth, first cousins by adoption, and double first cousins. When two siblings marry two siblings from a different family, the children are double first cousins.

The law also says the levels of blood relatedness that make marriage illegal. There is a fourth degree of consanguinity between first cousins, which means they share a great-grandparent. There is a fifth degree of consanguinity between second cousins, which means they share a great-great-grandparent. In Ohio, people who are second cousins or further away can get married.

There are no special cases where the law doesn’t allow first cousins to get married. It doesn’t matter if the cousins are over 65, can’t have children, or have been through DNA therapy. It’s a strict rule that all first cousins in Ohio must follow it. The law also makes it illegal for first cousins to have sexual contact or live together. Part 2907.03 of the Ohio Revised Code says that having sexual relations with a person who is a first cousin of the criminal is a third-degree crime. This crime comes with a fine of up to $10,000 and a jail sentence of one to five years.

Also, marriages between first cousins that happened in other states or countries are not recognized by the government. As per Section 3101.03 of the Ohio Revised Code, a marriage that is against the law in Ohio is also not recognized in Ohio, even if it was legal where it was signed. In Ohio, this means that first cousins who got married somewhere else cannot claim any formal rights or benefits as partners.

The Reason Behind Ohio’s Law

The main reason Ohio has this rule is to keep first cousins’ children from getting genetic diseases or birth abnormalities. The Ohio Department of Health says that first cousins’ children have a 4–7% chance of having a major birth problem, compared to a 2–3% chance for all children. This is because first cousins are more likely to share recessive genes that make people sick or have birth defects.

However, some experts say that the genetic risks of marrying a cousin are not as high as most people think. They say that the real number of birth defects relies on a lot of things, like the parents’ family background, race, and the conditions in their home life. They also say that genetic tests and education can help find problems and lower the chances of them happening. They say that making it illegal for adults to have relationships that are mutually agreed upon is an invasion of privacy and freedom.

Comparison with Other States and Countries

The law in Ohio about cousin marriage is not the only one in the US. As of 2021, 24 states don’t let first cousins get married, 19 states do, and seven states only let them get married under certain circumstances. Also, five states don’t let first cousins once removed (children of first cousins) get married. There are big differences in the rules between states, and some don’t accept cousin marriages from other places.

In many other countries, it is usual and okay for cousins to get married, but not in the United States. The Pew Research Center did a study in 2012 that found that about 10% of weddings around the world are between first or second cousins. This is most common in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In these parts of the world, cousins marry to keep family wealth and property safe, to improve family ties and loyalty, and to follow cultural or religious customs.


In Ohio, it is illegal for first cousins, adopted cousins, and double first cousins to get married, and anyone caught trying to do so will be charged with a crime. Legal approval is not given to marriages that happen outside of Ohio if they are illegal within the state.
The government has strict degrees of consanguinity because of worries about genetic diseases. Some people argue against taking away people’s freedom, but Ohio’s position is in line with many other U.S. states and goes against the rules around the world, where cousin marriages are popular.
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